|Program:||Uniting Neighbors in Truth and Equality (UNITE), Huntington, WV|
|Contact(s):||Sally Lind, Co-Coordinator: (304) 696-5592 and Michael Thomas, Co-Coordinator: (304) 696-4461|
|Purpose:|| To promote unity and racial reconciliation in the community of Huntington |
In October 1995 citizens of Huntington, West Virginia, and the surrounding areas came together and formed the Task Force on Racism which addressed six specific topics: politics and social interaction; law enforcement and the judiciary; economic determination; religion and spirituality; the media; and schools and education. The following year, the group changed its name to the Community Forum on Racism (C-FOR). In 1997, discourse on race issues turned to action when the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) visited Huntington. C-FOR organized the UNITE rally, which brought together people of all races and creeds to celebrate their diversity on the same day as the KKK rally. After the successful event, the organization which consists of community activists from faith, youth, and civic groups as well as representatives from state and local governments, educational institutions, and businesses changed its name to UNITE and continues to support programs which promote racial reconciliation.
UNITE meets bi-monthly to discuss race issues and to plan a wide array of activities which promote racial reconciliation in the Huntington community. Every year the group plans a large annual event the purpose of which is for the community to come together in celebration of unity. Additionally, UNITE works in cooperation with the newly formed Harmony Institute at Marshall University, hosts a quarterly community Fellowship of Prayer and Worship Service, sponsors a "Unity and Community" poster contest in local schools, and supports a scholarship fund for higher education.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
The September 1997 event at Ritter Park in Huntington highlights the group's recent successes in promoting racial reconciliation. More than 15,000 of Huntington's 55,000 residents (nearly one-third) attended the UNITE rally, which took place the same day as a Ku Klux Klan rally downtown. The day-long event included entertainment, fellowship, food, prayer, and was culminated by an evening concert. The September rally, according to co-coordinator Sally Lind, gave local citizens the opportunity "to stand together in opposition to hatred and prejudice against any group or individual." While it is difficult to ascertain the long-range outcomes of such a recent event, UNITE's leaders believe the September rally will act as a springboard for the group's future activities and will strengthen the organization's work with Marshall University, local churches, local schools, and its scholarship fund.
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